Airbus A340 makes first ever landing in Antarctica on ice runway

‘When we reached taxi speed I could hear a round of applause from the cabin. We were joyful,’ says pilot of historic flight

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 24 November 2021 14:25
Airline are the first to land an Airbus A340 in Antarctica on an ice runway

The first ever Airbus A340 aircraft to land in Antarctica touched down successfully on an ice runway earlier this month.

Operated by Hi Fly, the plane took off from Cape Town, South Africa, and landed around five hours later, having flown 2,500 nautical miles, on 2 November.

This first A340 service was put on in order to transport staff for Wolf's Fang, an Antarctica-based luxury adventure camp, plus freight.

In future, the jet may be used to carry tourists and scientists to the southernmost continent.

Flight with a view: A340 flies over Antarctica

Hi Fly vice-president and pilot Carlos Mirpuri said it was an “uneventful landing” but that the ice runway wasn’t easy to see.

“The reflection is tremendous, and proper eyewear helps you adjust your eyes between the outside view and the instrumentation,” he said in his captain’s log.

“The non-flying pilot has an important role in making the usual plus extra callouts, especially in the late stages of the approach.

“There is also no visual glide slope guidance, and the blending of the runway with the surrounding terrain and the immense white desert around, makes height judgment challenging, to say the least.”

But everything went smoothly, and those onboard were delighted to be part of the inaugural journey, according to Mirpuri.

The jet touched down on a runway made of ice and snow

“When we reached taxi speed I could hear a round of applause from the cabin. We were joyful. After all we were writing history.”

He added: “Take off was uneventful, as so was the returning flight. Customer was happy, we were happy. All goals for this first flight had been met.”

Video charts the A340’s historic journey from start to finish, showing the starkly beautiful white landscape as the plane descends over Antarctica and touches down smoothly on the snow.

The jet only stayed on Antarctica for around three hours before making the return journey to Cape Town.

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